Beautiful Joe

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Beautiful Joe was a dog from the town of Meaford, Ontario in Canada. His story inspired an1894 novel of the same name and contributed significantly to the worldwide awareness of animal cruelty.

The real Beautiful Joe[edit]

Beautiful Joe was a medium-sized brown dog, described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier, though he was also described as a mongrel, a cur, and a mutt. He was originally owned by a local Meaford miller named William Moore, who abused the dog to the point of near death, and even cut off his ears and tail. A local woman named Louise Moore rescued him in 1890 from what likely would have been a violent death. The sister of Louise Moore's fiancee, Margaret Marshall Saunders stayed with their family for some time and spent six months getting to know Beautiful Joe. Saunders was so touched by Joe's story that she wrote an eponymous novel-length version of it.

Autobiography of a dog[edit]

Even before its publication, the book Beautiful Joe was interesting for several reasons. Saunders chose to write it as an "autobiography" and tell the story from Beautiful Joe's viewpoint, and in her imagined version of Beautiful Joe's own words. While it was not the first book to tell a story from an animal's viewpoint--Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was already on its way to becoming classic literature by then--it was still an uncommon narrative device. This unusual viewpoint allowed the reader into Beautiful Joe's head, and inarguably led the reader to feel more sympathy toward the narrator than if the material had been presented in a straightforward and documentative manner. Also, Saunders believed that she wouldn't be taken seriously as a writer using the obviously female name Margaret Saunders, so she wrote using the variant name Marshall Saunders. In 1893 Saunders submitted her story to a writing contest being run by the Humane Society. It won, and the following year it was published as a novel. The response was tremendous.

Fame and legacy[edit]

When Beautiful Joe was published in 1894, both the book and its subject received worldwide attention. It was the first Canadian book in history to sell over a million copies, and by the late 1930s had sold over 7 million copies worldwide. In 1902, a sequel, Beautiful Joe's Paradise, was published. In 1934, Saunders was granted Canada's highest civilian award at the time, Commander of the British Empire. In 1963, the official Beautiful Joe Park was named in Meaford, next to the Moore house where Beautiful Joe was rehabilitated by Louise Moore. A Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed in 1994 to preserve Joe's legacy and ultimately establish the Moore residence as a museum.

Connection with Black Beauty[edit]

Saunders did not avoid comparison of her work to the similarly-themed Black Beauty. Indeed, she makes reference to Black Beauty in the very first page of Beautiful Joe, not referring to it by name but writing, from Joe's viewpoint, "I have seen my mistress laughing and crying over a little book that she says is a story of a horse's life". Joe goes on to say that he will write the story of a dog's life, to similarly please his owner. Thus, within the context of the book at least, Beautiful Joe is directly inspired by Black Beauty.

External links[edit]